What? Me, retire?
Sometimes it hits me that I am actually getting older.
You too, eh? Thought so. The years fly by, and our lives rush past. But what are we rushing towards? Are we living with purpose, or just filling our lives with activity?
My oldest son will be thirty this year, and my daughter – the baby of the family – will soon be nineteen. Two of my four children are now married, and Marion and I are looking forward to the birth of our second grandchild in June. Each of our children has a clear sense of purpose and direction. They have set their course in life. Marion and I find that our responsibilities as parents are rapidly diminishing. We are entering a new season of freedom. This raises a question. Assuming that God grants us good health and the Lord delays His return for a few years yet, what kind of life do we want to live in the interim?
This is a question that only people who are somewhat prosperous get to ask themselves. Last Friday evening, Marion and I, along with maybe 30 other people, enjoyed an evening at Le Nordik Spa in beautiful Chelsea, just north of Gatineau, as guests of an investment company in which we are relatively small-scale participants. We enjoyed the free drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and found the presentations informative. We also enjoyed getting to know a delightful couple about our age who run a small resort near Plevna, Ontario. Like us, they are looking to divest themselves of some of their present responsibilities so that they can have more free time.
Our conversation with D. and H., however, revealed both similarities and differences in our approach to investing. Like them, we have been self-employed for years, have no pension plan, and have relied on investments to provide for our future financial needs. Like them, we look for investments with inherent value, investments that are based on something more substantial than just the mood swings of the marketplace. However, unlike them, we don’t place our hope in even the best investments, because we know that our lives are a vapour, and all our plans are subject to God’s sovereign counsels. In view of this, we place our hope in His faithfulness.
D. and H. told us that their reason for buying into this particular investment was so that they could sleep at night. When I heard this, I realized that we were coming from a different perspective. I shared my investment philosophy with them: I try to pick investments that are fundamentally sound, and then once I’ve made my decision I make an intentional, conscious choice to leave the results in God’s hands.
As a result, I rarely have problems sleeping at night. After all, in the end I’m not in control anyway. If God sees fit to turn all my carefully-chosen investment targets belly-up, that is His perfect right. He is God, after all. He’ll just have to provide for me some other way – because He did promise that if I seek His Kingdom first, everything else I need will be provided for, one way or another. So, why should I worry? I do need to plan, as best I am able – that is my responsibility – but having done that, I need to put the plans in His hands and leave them there. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the only approach to investing that leaves me free to devote my time and energy to living for God instead of worrying about my future prospects. One way or another, my future is with God. In view of this, worrying about finances (or about anything else) is a total waste of time and energy. It’s completely unproductive, and Jesus warned that if allowed to take root in a believer’s life it will make the Word of God unfruitful.
Let me be completely clear. I have no apology for having funds to invest. As a young man, I thought all capitalists were evil (conveniently overlooking the irony that some of those evil capitalists had helped me financially). I have come to see that this view is much too simplistic. Jesus counted both the poor and the wealthy among his followers, and he didn’t condemn those who were wealthy for being prosperous. What mattered was where they placed their hope. Our hope is the anchor of our lives; it determines how we live. As a believer in Jesus, my hope is in the resurrection. I am looking for a new heaven and earth, the home of righteousness. I know that I am accountable to God for whatever I do with what He puts into my hands. Some would say that if I believe this, I should just give it all away. I used to think this way myself, but I’ve come to see that this is not the only faithful response to God’s gift of prosperity (for more on how my thinking changed about finances, click here). Marion and I have come to believe that it is part of godly wisdom for us to seek out sound investments, with the goal of being completely financially free in our older age, so that we are able to be a blessing rather than a burden to our children, and so that we are free to serve the Lord with the years that remain to us.
But here again, I find that my vision differs from that of many investors. Money truly is not all that important to me. It is really only a means to an end. Financial freedom allows Marion and I to decide how to use our time. We are already much closer to this goal than we were a few years ago, and I am enjoying the flexibility of being in a form of business that allows me to take increasing amounts of time off without leaving the business entirely. I am sure that I will not find it difficult to fill this extra free time. Most of my friends who are already fully retired tell me that they have plenty to do. So I have no concerns at all about finding ways of filling my time.
My concern lies in a different direction. I don’t just want to fill time, I want to fill it well. Leisure time, after all, is a form of wealth. It is a trust from God. What is the point of being financially free if I waste my freedom on living for myself, with no higher goal than satisfying my own desires and whims? What a waste of all life’s hard-won lessons! That kind of life is not worthy of the one who gave His life for me, and it will bring nothing but shame and regret when I stand before God’s judgment seat.
Financial freedom is a perfectly valid goal for a disciple of Jesus – but only if I use my freedom to serve others. Jesus has set me free from the control of sin so that I can bear fruit for Him. I am so thankful for God’s mercy and goodness that if He grants me financial freedom, I want to use the opportunities that He gives me to be as fruitful as possible.
So, what will Marion and I do as we move closer to financial freedom? To maintain our health we’ll undoubtedly live at a somewhat slower pace than we did when we were in our thirties, but our intent is to devote our time and energy – and as much of our annual income as we are able – to making disciples and proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Of course, we’ll also take time to enjoy our relationships with our children and grandchildren – after all, God is a God of relationships, and the family is one of the fields of ministry in which He has called us to be stewards. We will probably also be looking for opportunities to do some travelling. But because we just aren’t wired to live a life of perpetual leisure, we will be looking for travel opportunities that allow us to use our gifts to strengthen the people of God and serve the needy.
I’m not looking forward to retirement. How boring! I was made for the glory of God, so I intend to live out my years seeking His Kingdom and living for His glory. No, I’m not looking forward to retirement. I’m looking forward to being redeployed.